The Iraq War debate resumed in the Senate on Monday with the defense authorization bill the new focus of a growing movement to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq. Significantly, several senior Republicans, including Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the former Foreign Relations Committee chairman, in recent days have openly broken with Bush on the war. "There is a real possibility that there will be a day when Republican senators march to the White House and say to the president that it is time to end the war, an on that day the war ends," Senator Bernie Sanders said to cheers at a town meeting on Sunday in Montpelier.
Republican senators earlier this year threw up parliamentary roadblocks to efforts by Sanders and others to set a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq. But on Sunday news programs, their disenchantment was clear. Lugar said on Late Edition on CNN that most U.S. forces should be pulled out of Iraq by no later than mid-2008 "and probably before that time." Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press, Senator Chuck Hagel said, "We have no good options in Iraq now."
It remained unclear precisely how the rhetoric would translate into reality when roll call votes are cast on the Senate floor on amendments to the $648.8 billion defense measure. The bill would, for the first time, authorize funding for the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the Pentagon's regular activities for the fiscal year that begins October 1. Previously, Bush resorted to emergency spending bills to bankroll his war.
Sanders is a cosponsor of two amendments to the defense bill. One of the first expected to come up for a vote is by Senator Jim Webb, a former Navy secretary. It would impose new troop-readiness requirements. Active duty soldiers could not be sent back into combat until they had been home for as long as their previous deployment. Now, soldiers may be deployed for fifteen months after twelve at home. Another amendment by Senator Russell Feingold would set a timeline for beginning the redeployment of troops out of Iraq within four months and require completing the withdrawal by no later than March 31, 2008. The Senate this week also may take up an amendment to effectively rescind the resolution that Congress passed in 2002 (over Sanders' opposition) authorizing the use of force in Iraq. That amendment by Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Robert C. Byrd calls for the original war resolution to expire on October 11, 2007, the fifth anniversary of when Congress gave Bush the green light to invade Iraq.
To read a Washington Post article on how a report due next week will conclude that the Iraqi government is unlikely to meet any of the security goals or timelines President Bush set in January when he announced a major shift in U.S. policy, click here.
To read a New York Times editorial that declares, "It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit,' click here.